The invention of the automobile in the 1800s gave the people a glimpse of an impending technological advancement in the field of transportation in the coming years. Not only did it spark interest, it also paved the way for hobbyists to start collecting miniature car models – now popularly known as slot cars.
Toy makers found it a necessity to duplicate the quality that car manufacturers have applied on their automobiles, thus paving the way for the creation of slot cars. But did you know that the first slot cars were not really clamped on slots?
The first commercial slot cars were made by Lionel in 1912, and were being operated on rails similar to that of modern trains. These were often referred to as Rail Cars, and they were built with spare model train motors and parts.
The appearance of these slot cars was surprisingly almost similar to what we have today, except for the fact that during these early years, the cars can only run on a single pace. You can’t make them run faster or slower.
During the late 1930s, slot cars were powered by small combustion engines, allowing them to dash through the rails at a faster speed. Human intervention is still not possible, and the slot cars were just being clamped to a single central rail so that they will not lose their track.
As years went by, and with the continuous improvement in technology and in electronics, hobbyists began to conduct experiments on how toy cars can become controllable. They installed hand-built motors inside the cars, thus permitting speed adjustments and manipulation in the presence of a human who acts as the controller.
1954 was a milestone for slot cars and slot car racing. This was the year when the first electronic racecourse was created. Hobbyists became driven as ever on slot car racing as the electricity-powered racecourse further increased the popularity of slot cars. Racing clubs eventually switched from center rails to slots in the track surface.
Slot car racing was at its peak during the 1960s, where slot car facilities began to grow in multitude in every town. Major manufacturers like Eldon, Revell and Scalextric began to make home sets and became commercial successes.
By the late 1970s, there was a gradual decline in the slot car frenzy; perhaps this can be attributed to other technological advancements that sparked interest to other hobbyists.
In the 1990s, slot cars had more detailed and intricate designs, thanks mainly to the computer which made it possible to design a model, even on 3D. The hobby is currently in a sort of revival with makers like Scalextric and Carrera making a comeback. The renewed interest also spurred hobbyists to collect vintage slot cars that became popular during the early years.
The most modern of the slot cars are the digitized ones, which were invented in 2004. Digital slot cars have the ability to race on multiple, providing a more realistic simulation of car racing.